Down on the Farm

Weekly column by Eric Bergeson.

Reagan

When Ronald Reagan was elected to office, he was broadly viewed as a simpleton, a sunshiney light-weight who dealt with problems by reciting snappy, made-for-television stories which usually weren’t even true.

Oh, how Reagan enraged the educated. What reading he did was light, cowboy fiction. In contrast to his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, who wallowed in the detail of government policy, Reagan seemed to barely know, or care, what was going on.

School's out

The last day of school still gives me an exhilarating sense of freedom, even if it has been twenty years since I have had a summer vacation in the childhood sense of the term.

The number one freedom of summertime, of course, was sleeping in. No school bus to miss. No books to lug. No lunch money to remember.

Gravel roads

A detour due to road construction means that for the first time in almost thirty years it is necessary to take gravel roads to get to town from the farm.

What hardship! Gravel roads require that you hang on to the steering wheel and think while you drive. When you meet a car, you brace yourself for the ensuing cloud of dust and the possibility that a flying rock will leave a crater in your windshield.

Graduation Speech

‘Tis the season for commencement speakers to pour out advice to graduates, never mind that no group in the world is more deaf to admonition than graduating seniors.

The urge to give advice to those about to embark on adulthood is irresistible, perhaps because we all wish we could go back to that age knowing what we know now.

So, despite the futility of the exercise, here is this columnist’s advice to the Class of 2004:

Debt is evil! Don’t run up your tab. Don’t pour money into some overpriced college unless you know exactly what you want out of the place.

Torture in Iraq

So, what is Average Joe Taxpayer supposed to make of the revelations that American troops did nasty things to their prisoners-of-war in Iraq?

The troops who tormented their captives will be hung out to dry, no doubt. Public relations demands no less.

But the problem runs deeper, and the responsibility goes far higher.

The Spud

Kids these days, driving brand new vehicles before they even land a job. Whatever happened to passing the rusted family station wagon down to the children? Today, it seems, many kids view it as their right to drive a nicer car than their parents.

I wouldn’t be where I am today without having spent my college years driving a rusted 1975 Dodge Coronet station wagon. My friends called it the spudwagon. Later, the name was shortened to “the Spud.” Even my mother would ask on the phone, “How’s the Spud?”

Old photo album

Time for a mid-life crisis! I stopped by the fortieth birthday of a grade school classmate this week. It seems like just yesterday we were smuggling each other notes in fifth grade math class. Now we’re about half way to the grave.

The general consensus amongst us: Life is better than ever, but man is it going fast. No, we wouldn’t go back, but in just twenty short years we will be sixty! Quick, which sports car should I buy?

Dignity

Historians have had a tough time figuring out George Washington. He didn’t talk much. He didn’t write much. He didn’t do well in school, nor was he that great a general.

Even people of his time had difficulty understanding the man. Washington wasn’t the brightest of the Founding Fathers. Not even close. But when he walked into a room or rode up on a horse, he carried himself in such a way that all opposition to his leadership vanished, even amongst those smarter and more ambitious than himself.

Funeral rituals

A funeral in a small-town church for an old neighbor is a bittersweet affair. It is tough for the bereaved, no matter the age of the departed, but the opportunity for the whole neighborhood to get together under circumstances which dictate that everybody be at their kindest, best-dressed and most thoughtful allows for something good to come out of a sad occasion.

The Lutherans do funerals well. I can say that because I am not a Lutheran. I was raised in a more evangelical tradition which thought the Lutherans to be stiff, formal and cold.

The Bare Bottom Test

The seasons in Minnesota change with jarring suddenness. In one week, the snow has disappeared, the ground has nearly thawed, basketball has ended and baseball has begun.

On top of it all, daylight savings time kicked in meaning that the sun sets way past supper. People amble out the door into the sunshine in a post-hibernation daze. For the first time in five months, there is no need to run from the car to the house.